Juliana Lopes, journalist and researcher, in MilanAnswers:
Eli Sudbrack, artist, in São Paulo
Eli Sudbrack is the brazilian half of art collective AVAF, which has gained relevance in the international scenario in the last years. Vibrations, colors and the online aspect are some of the factors that help place them on top of avant garde.He told us he performs very well in chats. Because he likes to have time to think and answer. That’s why we decided to set this interview via Skype. Writing helps him.The interview you are about to read has been slightly edited, only to facilitate the reading. The time between answers and questions displays the exact time he took to respond to each question. You will notice that, in some cases, he took over 10 minutes to deliver a response.The questions were sent from Milan, Italy, and answered by him in São Paulo, Brazil.
Impact quote: “I want to have roots in two different places”
Feeling that caused the impact quote:
[14:06:00] Eli Sudbrack: Hi Ju, let’s go!
[14:06:21] Juliana Lopes: Good morning!
[14:06:54] Eli Sudbrack: Good morning, darling
[14:07:00] Juliana Lopes: How is your mood today?
[14:08:33] Eli Sudbrack: It’s such a wonderful Day over here! The sun is perfect and I woke up
very early in the morning (I usually wake up at 6 a.m.), tendered my plants, bathed in a little sun. I
feel energized and happy. The weekend was great with my boyfriend as well.
[14:08:58] Juliana Lopes: Why do you like to wake up so early?
[14:11:39] Eli Sudbrack: It’s a natural thing to me, in fact. I have always been a “day” person. I
love the sun, love the light. The day fills me with energy: of work and production. In a general way,
I don’t usually work at night, only if I really need to. I try to stick to the schedule from 9 a.m. to 7
p.m., tops. And I don’t work on weekends.
[14:12:41] Juliana Lopes: Well, that leads us to the point I wanted to talk about: the sun, the place.
Why did you return to São Paulo?
[14:20:15] Eli Sudbrack: I’m actually living between São Paulo and NY. I moved to NY in 1998.
Since 2005, I have been disconnecting myself from NY and I always think I am going to do it, but
I never do it. In 2010 I was very happy in Berlin, but then I met my boyfriend, who is Brazilian
and who lived in NY, so I ended up returning there. It is the first time in many years that I date
a Brazilian man. We then started talking about coming back to Brazil to settle down. I own an
apartment in the Santa Cecilia neighbourhood, which I love and had been rented for over 10 years. I
took it back and repaired everything. I got tired of living as a foreigner with no true home. Coming
back to São Paulo was also a professional move, but it can’t be total so far, because I still have
things going on in NY. Anyway, I started dealing with NY in a softer way, when I am there I feel
calm. NY is a countryside city in comparison to São Paulo.
[14:22:46] Juliana Lopes: The foreigner issue is something I wanted to discuss with you because,
as a Brazilian living abroad, I feel this question is stronger than many can imagine. How did you
manage to build all your art away from your homeland? (btw, it’s playing “Space Oddity” on the
radio, and it’s a song I always think of when I talk about other “astronauts”).
[14:32:07] Eli Sudbrack: Yeah, it was a very long process. I moved to NY with the original idea of
staying there due to a relationship I was having with an American man. It was kind of in between.
I had given lessons of photography at FAAP, and I loved it. I was sick of São Paulo, but had never
actually thought of moving to NY, I only did that because of my ex-boyfriend. It was the internet
boom time and I ended up as an editor in a website. I hated the job, but it helped me get a work
visa. After 9/11 I lost my job and decided to become an artist again. Building a career abroad is no
easy feat, but NY has this American way of solving things: it realizes and values your talent, as well
as people’s idiosyncrasies. You can go very far there by working with something you really love,
in which you put a lot of effort, building something that’s yours, something that’s your face, your
language. NY has helped me become myself fully. It’s something I learned there and something
that stills reverberates in my work and life. Before I moved to NY I was involved with photography
_when I got there I was blown up and decided to go back to the things I had left aside.
[14:32:26] Eli Sudbrack: LOL I loved the “Space Oddity” coincidence! Loved it!
[14:33:39] Juliana Lopes: As of the “Space Oddity” thing, I feel myself floating and only able to
connect myself to other “Major Tom” (the astronaut from the song). Do you feel this, too? Having
friends “lost in translation”?
Comme des Garçons by AVAF, 2011
[14:34:08] Eli Sudbrack: You mean friends abroad who are “lost in translation”?
[14:34:31] Juliana Lopes: I mean friends who are also facing this issue of being everywhere and, at
the same time, nowhere at all.
[14:38:37] Eli Sudbrack: I find myself struggling to not to be like that anymore. I know the example
I gave you may sound opposing, but I see my coming to São Paulo as an attempt to settle down.
For many years I was a world citizen, I could live anywhere. But now my target is different, I want
to be in two places where I feel comfortable and dedicated. I am still getting used to São Paulo
again. In NY, on the other hand, I already feel comfortable. Anyway, I guess the Major Tom in the
world today is very common. In theory, I love moving. But now I am going through this “rooting”
process. Maybe rooting in two different places. I think it’s a question of objectives, age and
relationship. I am 44, I want to live in a place that is just like me. I really love my boyfriend, this is
the best relationship I have ever had in my life. And it gets better everyday. Someday, I will want
children. Rooting is a part of this process.
[14:39:18] Juliana Lopes: Speaking of your art in NY, we receive it in Brazil, even if it’s in a sparse
way. How did you tap into your roots being outside Brazil?
[14:45:50] Eli Sudbrack: It’s funny this things of seeing Brazil in my artwork. Everybody says it,
but I can’t say I completely agree. Of course there are personal references in my work. Of course
the way I was brought up reflects in my production. But I guess people are inclined to associate
colors and explosions with Brazil. I don’t necessarily think that way. Since 2005, every project I
have done has been done together with my partner at AVAF, Christophe Hamaide Pierson, who is
not Brazilian, but French. Brazil is only 50% of this equation. I don’t think about my roots when
doing my projects, unless there is something very specific. To me it’s all about the vision and the
language we want to create.
[14:48:28] Juliana Lopes: I think AVAF is all about spontaneity, speed and vibration. But honestly I
agree this cannot be linked to any specific geography.
[14:42:42] Juliana Lopes: You know the first time I saw something of you was 10 years ago. That
video “Just Like a Movie Star”. I just loved it. What do you feel when you watch it again?
[14:49:30] Eli Sudbrack: The JLMS was the first video I ever did. It was back in 2002. I believed
people should do their own videos of their favorite songs _this, btw, is before-YouTube! That
video was the restart of everything, it represents the moment in which I started to look inside me. It
was when I lost my job and embraced the idea of becoming an artist. Before that, even during my
classes at FAAP, I never really wanted to be an artist. I thought I was going to have a permanent
job and do art just in my free time. Then I decided I should seek references from my childhood and
teenage years: JLMS is the re-creation of a sequence of “Xanadu”, a movie I loved when I was 10
Barney’s NY by AVAF
[14:55:03] Juliana Lopes: And how did you start experimenting with other materials? Was it
complicated to change from photography to arts? What was your approach? Did you go to therapy
or did you have insights on your own?
[15:01:51] Eli Sudbrack: I have graduated in Cinema. I studied Communications at PUC-Rio. In
1990 I moved abroad for two years. When I came back to Brazil, it was the president Collor’s
years, and he had extinguished Embrafilme and there weren’t many movies being shot at that
period. I moved to São Paulo and started attending some art classes. What changed my life was a
photography course with Rubens Mano, who ended up becoming some sort of tutor to me at that
time and a great friend (up until now). With him, I set up a group called Panoramas da Imagem and
we organized lectures, exhibitions, etc. We discovered Camilsa Sposati, Caio Reisewitz, Mauro
Restiffe, etc. But I deliberately started to be interested in other media and invited people who were
experts to work with me. My role was always that of a curator/director.
[15:03:03] Eli Sudbrack: As to the therapy… I was against it for several years. Then, in 2006, I
started going to the therapist. But I had several insights on my own. I am always thinking. I am
[15:12:53] Juliana Lopes: Tell me a little of your routine in SP. You wake up, tender your flowers,
gets ready for the day. How do you organize your creative life?
[15:18:56] Eli Sudbrack: It’s no mystery at all. I sit in front of the computer to see if there’s
anything that needs to be taken care of. Then I answer some e-mails from curators, take care of}|
payments, etc. Then I send e-mails to Christophe regarding projects we are currently working on.
From then on I stay at the computer, or then I go do some drawings. I spend my day between the
sketchbook and my notes, and the computer. In the evening, when I get hungry, computer.
In the evening, when I get hungry, I stop working. In the meantime, depending on the day, I go to
the acupuncture sessions, therapy, squash or work out.
[15:23:15] Juliana Lopes: Your day seems to be very well structured, but regarding your
imagination… do you usually “see” your works before they are done?
[15:34:10] Eli Sudbrack: The way I creatively deal with Christophe surely influences that. We
are used to expressing our ideas through words. Words of occupying spaces, new drawings, new
sculptures. Most times it is manifested through words. Then, yes, in a wider way we envision the
works, and describe them before executing. Rarely do we create something disconnected from a
project (an exhibition, a performance, etc) and I like it this way. I can have great moments of being
detached from work (in a desert beach, for instance). Christophe and I have a very particular way
of working, a way that is dictated, I guess, by the distance between us and by our personalities as
well. I, for example, am not comfortable at chatting for too long over the phone. Only if it’s strictly
[15:36:07] Juliana Lopes: Now that you are in São Paulo, in your new house and with the love of
your life, have your dreams changed? Has it all reflected in your imagination?
[15:56:40] Eli Sudbrack: Certainly it has. I am much more introspective and less collective. I have
spent more time drawing, regardless of any specific project. I am more inside me, more reclusive.
[15:57:26] Juliana Lopes: Because you feel at home.
[16:02:01] Eli Sudbrack: I guess I am still adapting to the new house. I know it’s home, but I still
need to find it, I still need to feel at home. This has made me think a lot. It’s home, but it can be